Politics

Mike Duffy trial day 14: Duffy lawyer blasts witness for not meeting with him

Mike Duffy's defence lawyer ripped into the former director of Senate finance during cross examination, demanding to know why she would not meet with him about the case but agreed to meet with Crown officials.

Bayne says he may need an extra 3 to 6 weeks for case

Mike Duffy, witness Nicole Proulx and his lawyer Donald Bayne arrive for day 14 of the suspended senator's fraud and breach of trust trial. 1:52

Mike Duffy's defence lawyer ripped into Nicole Proulx, the former director of Senate finance, during cross examination today, demanding to know why she would not meet with him about the case but agreed to meet with Crown officials.

"All through the time period I was attempting to meet with you — anywhere you chose, with anyone you chose, at any time you chose  — you kept telling me you were too busy with work," Donald Bayne charged. "But you weren't too busy to be working with, meeting with, corresponding with and helping the prosecution, right? You weren't too busy to be doing that."

Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to expenses he claimed as a senator and later repaid with money provided by the prime minister's former chief of staff Nigel Wright.

Proulx said she received a subpoena from the prosecution and that it was her understanding that she was to meet with the prosecution. She said she sought authority before releasing any documents.

"In no way did I mean to do anything that would be contrary to whatever I'm supposed to do," she said. "This is my first time in this type of setting and I hope it's my last time." 

Bayne continued to hammer away, trying to get Proulx to admit she was too busy for him, but not too busy to work with the prosecution.

"You're not an advocate, you're a witness Ms. Proulx" he said.

Proulx suggested the meetings she had with the Crown did not take a lot of time, but that those meetings did force her to rearrange her work schedule.

"Yes it has been busy. And if you were to ask my family they would know. They haven't seen me."

Court was adjourned after Proulx asked the court that she be allowed to retrieve her agenda to confirm the dates Bayne said she met with the Crown.

Bayne also told the judge that he may need an extra three to six weeks to present his case, and that he was available for the next several months, meaning the trial could continue into the election.

'Something more substantial'

Earlier, Crown prosecutor Jason Neubauer said he hoped the judge hadn't come to any conclusions in the case after the judge suggested he hadn't heard sufficient evidence of established rules regarding senators' travel claims.

"At the end of the day, I hope you have something more substantial than what appears on the platter right now," provincial court Judge Charles Vaillancourt told Neubauer.

"It's our hope that your honour hasn't made any findings of fact," Neubauer said.

"I usually wait till the end of the day to decide the facts," Vaillancourt responded tersely.

Vaillancourt also added that he would like to move along and "start hearing some evidence."

The exchange came after Bayne objected to testimony by Proulx. 

Bayne argued there were no clear, specific rules about Senate travel expenses before the creation of the 2012 Senate travel policy (before the period in which Duffy is accused of inappropriately expensing costs). He said Proulx was just offering an opinion on what the rules were before that date.

Bayne accused the Crown of eliciting evidence from Proulx that is "purely hypothetical."

But Neubauer argued that the Senate administrative rules that were in place before the travel policy laid out the principles of "parliamentary business," which guide senators on what they can and cannot expense.

Legitimacy questioned

The Crown has questioned the legitimacy of some of Duffy's travel claims, along with a number of other services expensed by the suspended senator.

Neubauer said he will finish questioning Proulx this morning, on the 14th day of the trial, meaning Duffy's lawyer will spend the rest of the day cross-examining her.

Proulx has been a witness since Wednesday, going over the $65,000 worth of contracts Duffy entered into with his friend Gerald Donohue, who the Crown alleges used the money to pay for inappropriate or non-parliamentary services for the now suspended senator. She has testified that Duffy did not have the discretion to change the nature of the work described in those contracts, meaning money allocated for those contracts could not be used for other Senate services.

Court has heard that Donohue issued cheques for services expensed by Duffy that included payments to an office volunteer, a makeup artist, a photo processing firm and a personal fitness trainer.

On Thursday, Proulx testified that bills for makeup, personal fitness and personal and family pictures do not fall under parliamentary business and cannot be expensed.

Former Senate finance director Nicole Proulx testified that she rejected a claim by Mike Duffy in 2009 requesting compensation for makeup services he used before posing for a Senate portrait. (Greg Banning/Canadian Press)

She also testified that she rejected a claim by Duffy in 2009 requesting compensation for makeup services he used before posing for a Senate portrait. Makeup, she said, is not eligible for reimbursement, even if used for a Senate-related activity.

Proulx said she had written a letter to Duffy explaining the reasons for rejecting the claim. She added that he had the option to appeal her decision to the Senate internal economy committee — a group of senators that oversees Senate administration.

Proulx said the makeup issue did end up on the committee's agenda, but was withdrawn by Duffy moments before it was scheduled to come up for discussion.

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